Archive for April, 2009

Judging the California Writers Contest

April 30, 2009

Who were the judges and how did they select the winners? What were they looking for in the entries?    Rachel

Excellent question, Rachel.  The judges are all published writers with strengths in the fields they judged.  

To answer your next question, look to the right of this post.  See “Pages?”  Click on the specific category of your choosing.  For instance, under poetry, you’ll discover this:

 Be as specific as possible. Cut most abstract words from your poem;  words like love, friendship, death.

Replace them with concrete words. Every line should have one concrete word in it. (A tree, a spider, a glob of glue . . .)

Those are two hints for you as to what the judges look for when they read a poem. (There are more on the page at right.)  The poems that won were very specific. 

A good exercise would be to take a poem and use the suggestions at right and make it better.  Then submit it for publication . . and if you are still in middle school next year . . . submit it again to our contest.  And write MORE for us.  Remember, you can start writing now.  Next January you can check our new guidelines and send as many submissions as you like until NEXT April 1.

Short Stories   – I am one of the judges for two of the grades in short stories.  Here is something that is helpful from the page:

Be specific. (Here’s that word again!) Change general words like nice, pretty, ugly, or mean. These are telling words. Replace them with action verbs or dialogue.

      Example: Jenny was angry. The teacher gave her an F on her paper.

      Re-Write: Jenny’s eyes flashed. The F gleamed big and red on top of her science test. Jenny clenched her hands so the paper crumpled. “I’ll get that teacher in trouble,” she said under her breath.

Essays/Personal Narrative     There are several suggestions at the right, but here is one that I think is very helpful to you as you revise your piece, or write a new one:

 Introduce your experience with humor, action, or emotion; then take your reader along on a journey of self-discovery.  Concentrate on drama.  Write scenes. Drop your reader right into what happened! Let your reader experience the event, moment by moment!

And really, for ALL writing, that last line says it all!

April 29, 2009

The format is not the best for the dimensions of this space so apologies to those who are trying to read the school list.  

Last year I sent in the honorable list to the Contra Costa Times but they only printed the main winners due to space constraints.  This year we even have more honorables.  Good for you! 

As one of the sixth grade short story judges, I can say we were most amazed at the quality in this category.  Wow!  You kids know how to write!  Usually sixth grade students aren’t aware that stories have a distinct beginning, middle and an end.  But this stack of manuscripts were so compelling and well-written we nearly dropped off of our chairs as we read them! 

I hear other judges were also impressed with their manuscripts. 

As in other adult contests, we don’t give specific comments or critiques.  But if you come to one of our free workshops we will help you discover ways to make your good stories, poems and essays better and better. 

Congratulations honorables, winners and everyone who entered!  Keep writing! 


Honorable Mentions for Young Writers Contest

April 29, 2009

















Honorable Mention Winners

Short Story
6th Grade
Traded  Mizarahy Aquino Park Middle
Why Cheetahs Do Not Have Much Stamina    Anthony Chen  Gale Ranch
The Dare Anthony Chen Gale Ranch
The Last Shot Amanda Chun Pine Valley
Punishers Mimi Evans Gale Ranch
Cloaks, Wiis, and Coffee    Timothy Deng Gale Ranch
The Thin Mirror Glass Alexander Felix Park Middle
Out of Time Rubina Gala Gale Ranch
Kelsey the Beginning Christian Gianni Martinez Jr. High
Damian’s Mark Colleen M. Gill Christ the King
Whispers in the Hallway Clarina He St. Perpetua
My Valley Liya Khan Gale Ranch
When Johnny Comes Marching   Joy Koonin  North Creek Academy
Blue Eyes Elora McCutcheon Park Middle
Delinquent Jack Madigan Christ the King
The Magical Coin Lena Milton Tehiyah Day
Picture Perfect Zhill Olonan Adams Middle
The Brass Hallways Zhill Olonan Adams Middle
Silence Cassidy Amber Vaughn Christ the King
Jamey’s Hope Ariana VonEnrenkrook Above & Beyond Academy
7th Grade
Ashes to Ashes   Mia Camille Miculob Orinda Intermediate
Life After the Tragedy  Kaylee Fagan Queen of All Saints
Americans Talk Quickly  Raia Cherednikov Valley View
Reduce, Reuse & Recycle  Liam Kelly Orinda
The Journey  Kevin Lu Valley View
The Ocelot: A Mayan Story     Krithik Puthalath Windemere Ranch 
The Tree Prince    Ailan Evans Joaquin Moraga
8th Grade
The Dreamer Sarah Alford   Orinda
Waiting for the Cry Sasha Batz-Stern Tehiyah Day
Traitor Anthony Chan  Windemere Ranch
Night Music Stella Chua Pine Valley
The Walking Shadow Emmet Francis Martinez Junior High
Longing for Life Samantha Hebing North Creek Academy
Zapatos Magicos Juan Morena Sequoia Middle
Shanghaied Sailor Briana Pearsall North Creek Academy
The Little Wolf Ruth Spekner Royal Oaks Academy
Personal Narrative/Essays
6th Grade
Untitled             Timothy Deng Gale Ranch
Red Roses          Mia Cheverz Iron Horse
Untitled              Victoria Lu ?
Mia Lauren Burns Pleasant Hill Middle
Riding Rapids     Rubina Gala Gale Ranch 
7th Grade
A Near Dunk in the Water     Mikayla Flicek Gale Ranch 
When I got Leland Out          Joey Mediati Joaquin Moraga
The Lost Child                       Sara Poston Diablo View
The Day New York City Stood Still: My Story     Alexis Zwahlen ?
Stars in the Meadow              Waverly Runion Diablo Vista 
Rocha                                     Haley Morucci Diablo View
Running the Mile                  Sejal Jain  Gale Ranch
Eighth Grade
Guilty Pleasure     Mina Nayeri Pine Valley
The Big Lebowski and Me       Arash Ehya Windrush
Not the Way to Start     Jennifer Preciado Riverview
Traditions Never Die, They Just Get Funnier     Dominic Aliotti St. Agnes
The Ice Cream Fell Off the Cone     Emily Galloway St. Agnes
A Night to Remember     Cassie Naughton Dorris-Eaton
To Sing or Not to Sing    Makaela Williams Martinez
A Hug of Care  William John Rhodes William John Rhodes
Dazzle Me!      Madison Peters St. Agnes
An Unbreakable Bond     Lucy Li  Iron Horse
6th Grade
The Rainbows Cece Alter Tehiyah Day
Heaven Kate Menefee Christ the King
Inability Chloe Chan Pine Valley
Fall Composition Chloe Chan Pine Valley
Missing Grace Howard Walnut Creek 
Picket Fence Paul S. Cook Valley View
Memories Liya Khan Gale Ranch
The Rock Paul S. Cook  Valley View
7th Grade
Escaping Out the Back Door Eleana Binder Tehiyah Day
Nine Ways of Looking at a Mirror Eleana Binder Tehiyah Day
The Questioning Mind Fatima Naveed Walnut Creek
Hiroshima  Caitlin Kloess Windrush
Jodileen’s Dream Katherine Smith Valley View
There’s No Place I’d Rather Be  Elia Chauqui-Schmida Windrush
Trophies Noah Baker Tehiyah Day
Brat Claude Jonathan Ng Athenian
A New Day Sejan Jain Gale Ranch
The Mustard Massacre  Joey Mediati  Joaquin Moraga
8th Grade
Escape Shania Reynolds Foothill Middle
I Don’t Understand Lexie Burton Dorris-Eaton
I Don’t Understand Why  Curtis Haist Dorris-Eaton
Tears Spill Over the Edge Kiren Singh  Dorris-Eaton
Paul Rosemary Cook St. Catherine
Reality  Rosemary Cook St. Catherine
Rain Sydney Cook ?
The Cowboy  Claire Zasso Stone Valley
The Shadow Messenger Lexie Burton Dorris-Eaton
The Land of the Snowgeese Brianna Grace Contaxis-Tucker Windrush
Before and After  Emily Radler  Dorris-Eaton

1, 2 and 3rd Place Winners of Young Writers Contest Here

April 28, 2009

Street music motivates art

April 27, 2009

Let’s see. Number of goosebumps generated by listening to this fabulous montage of global street musicians performing “Stand By Me” multiplied by the artistic confluence generated by said bumps equals………. Inspiration!

More on the contest

April 27, 2009

Is it possible that the winners entries can be posted here?

Ooh, I KNEW someone was going to ask that. () If you can wait a few days until I get caught up, I will. I need to hire an assistant. And the assistant will get double my pay.
P.S. You know we all are volunteers. But we love it!

Let Music Motivate Writing

April 25, 2009

Will winners hear on other entries?

April 25, 2009

If a person has won but they had submitted other entries that hadn’t won, would they still get a reply on their other entries? Fatima

Another good question. The winners will receive their honorable mentions at the banquet. (You won an honorable mention for “The Questioning Me.” Congrats!) Liz

Great Novel for Middle School Kids

April 24, 2009

Just finished a great read. The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney by Suzanne Harper is everything Publisher’s Weekly and Kliatt says it is. (Starred Reviews) Sparrow is a medium who meets a boy that’s rather unusal. He’s a “persistent, charming, infuriating ghost, who won’t let her be until she agrees to help him Move On.”

I couldn’t stop reading it. What fun!
So what have YOU been reading lately?

Contest Entries

April 24, 2009

Will you send a letter commenting or replying back on everybody else’s entry? When? Lauren

Good question! We have sent ONE letter to each person who entered. So if you entered FIVE pieces you will receive ONE letter. This is a contest, so we don’t provide a critique.

If you entered the contest and didn’t receive a letter, it means that you didn’t fill out a form or if you did we couldn’t read it!

I have a few names that do not have any addresses “attached” to them.

Honorable mentions were mailed to the schools or to the students. (I tried to send them to the schools when possible to save postage.)

Any teacher whose student won 1, 2, or 3 received a letter and an invitation to our banquet on May 9 along with the winning student.

Each student who entered our contest also received a list of what places are interested in publishing student poems, personal experience pieces and short stories. We encourage you to do this!

Students who don’t win our contest STILL can get published other places and win OTHER contests. And if you are in 6 or 7 grades this year, you can enter our contest again next year.

1. If you didn’t win this year, and wonder why, remember that sometimes it’s just the competition and not your work.
2. Take your piece and ask your teacher or a writer what you could do to make it better. Or now that you’ve had some time away from it, maybe you know the answer to this question yourself. We adult writers ALWAYS let time pass by before we submit anything to publishers. Time is our friend. Time helps us see where we can make a story or poem have more sensory details, express more feeling, or make it more compelling to the reader.
3. My advice is to enter the contest AS MANY TIMES AS YOU CAN. Start writing NOW for next April. Really! We’ve discovered that the more you write, the better you get. And often the kids who have more entries have better odds of winning. In our past, we have had kids who have won MORE THAN ONE PRIZE.
4. If you have general writing questions – – go ahead and ask them here! Or attend our FREE writing workshops. Author Sarah Wilson (Susie) and I teach them through the Contra Costa Library system.
5. I’ll give more specific writing tips as time goes on. Stay tuned.